When I was first introduced to my mentors by Barbara Bylenga via Skype in June 2016, neither I nor my mentors had thought we’d create such a bond. Being a part of SHE-CAN had so far been nothing short of an extreme privilege, so saying that I was excited to be a mentee to a team of strong and loving women is an understatement. After receiving admission to attend Beloit College in Wisconsin during the fall of 2017, my mentors and I discussed what I could do while I wait to leave for the U.S. in August. Aside from the obvious such as learning to drive and reviewing some of my high school lessons, towards the end of March we decided that it would be a great idea to have a book club. We knew that it would be a fun and interesting way to keep ourselves busy over the course of the months to come.
We agreed to start with “Rebecca” by Daphne Du Maurier. Written in 1938, the novel is my lead mentor Jenny Collins’ favorite book. The story proved to be quite more than what I and the other mentors had imagined. Each chapter was more thrilling and captivating. Told from the heroine’s point of view, whose first name is never revealed, the reader is swirled to the heroine’s home of Manderley after she marries widower Maxim de Winter. She’s met by constant judging from the housekeeper Mrs. Davis and from most of her entourage who never stop to compare her to the deceased Rebecca. Daphne Du Maurier’s most acclaimed novel, I believe that whenever I think of the opening line of the first chapter,” Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again,” I will be overcome with feelings of longing and love.
Reading and discussing books through the book club has further strengthened our bond. Since all of us are fervent feminists, we always give our views regarding certain characters and situations described in the books. Additionally since all of us are from different social backgrounds, we always feel free to share our perspectives and compare the female characters in “Rebecca” to 21st Century women. Which if I’m being honest is rather fascinating given that Daphne Du Maurier has a rather unique way of creating strong female characters - both protagonists and antagonists. We use Skype to discuss the books we read and have a group call when everyone is free.
For the month of May, we decided to read “Baking Cakes in Kigali” by Gaile Parkin which was suggested by Nahal Li and Amanda Arch. Set in Rwanda some years after the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, it follows Angel, a Tanzanian professional cake-baker, who lives in Kigali with her husband and orphaned grandchildren.
This book is a testimony of courage and hope through the eyes of Angel but also of reconciliation and humanity shown through each of the 14 sections of the book in which she bakes cakes for a special occasion. I’d recommend this book to anyone who would like to get a better understanding of life in Kigali and the likes of the people you are meant to meet there.
Being part of a book club is great. I’ve always loved to read books and give my opinions. For the past two months, I’ve been able to analyze and discuss characters and scenarios while relating them to myself in one way or another. Terry Santamaria and I have yet to select our June book, and I can only hope that it's as invigorating as the previous books we’ve read.
Read stories written by our talented scholars and multiple voices across the SHE-CAN network